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Backstage at the World Cup 'Kick Off' concert

By Ben Wyatt, CNN
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Backstage at the World Cup kick-off concert
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Over 30,000 fans attend Orlando stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg to watch pop stars perform
  • Show includes performances by Alicia Keys, Shakira, Angelique Kidjo and Vieux Farka Toure
  • South African president Jacob Zuma and FIFA president Sepp Blatter open the event

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- The World Cup atmosphere grew to fever pitch at Pirates Stadium in Soweto on Thursday night, as the venue hosted a star-studded concert to celebrate the imminent start of the soccer tournament in South Africa.

Alicia Keys, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas headlined a roster of artists -- which also included local musicians such as the Soweto Gospel Choir, The Parlotones and Hugh Maskella -- as the event, which was the first of its kind to be scheduled for the World Cup, was broadcast around the world.

South African president Jacob Zuma and FIFA president Sepp Blatter both spoke to the 30,000 crowd, while organizers estimated the concert had drawn a biggest international television audience of all-time eclipsing that of Live Earth in 2007, the Academy Awards of 2010 and Live Aid in 1986.

Domestically, the musical extravaganza proved to be the most watched entertainment event in recent history.

"Data showed that peak viewing for the concert topped out at just under 8.5 million South African viewers, with an average of just over 6.7 million viewers on (national broadcaster) SABC 1 and (private TV station) SuperSport 3 combined," research company Nielsen told Reuters Web site.

Gallery: World Cup Kick Off concert
Video: Cape Town's World Cup moment

Colombian pop star Shakira performed the tournament's official song "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" along with local act Freshlyground as the concert came to a climax.

"I have been to a lot of concerts but I have never been to a concert like this," Johannesburg resident Khensami Majola told the Web site of soccer's governing body FIFA.

"It is amazing fun, we are having a huge jam. It is a perfect presentation of Africa -- north, south, east and west."

Soweto local William Oosthuizen added: "I am very proud and I am enjoying this immensely. Beauty in the heart of Soweto. This is what Africa is all about. Sport has a unifying factor and it's all about people enjoying themselves."

Angelique Kidjo, a singer from Benin who played on the bill, told CNN: "This event is exposing us to the world. the more educated our children are the more we are able to host other events like this because we understand what is at stake, what it brings to us."

The month-long soccer World Cup, being staged in Africa for the first time, kicks off on Friday when hosts South Africa take on Mexico.

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